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Best of the Best: Radio Days

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Jeweler’s radio call-in show promotes integrity and product knowledge

Best of the Best Logo[h3]Rogers Jewelers[/h3]
Address: 1402 Hancock Street, Quincy, MA 02169 
Phone: (617) 773-3636 
URL: rogersjewelers.com

[blockquote cap=A]s a graduate gemologist, Jeff Bertman knows a lot about gemstones. Some of his favorite fun facts he likes to share include these — that garnets are used to make sandpaper, Elton John owns a pair of glasses that have synthetic sapphire lenses, and the space shuttle’s main windshield is coated with synthetic diamonds to protect it from overheating when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]THE IDEA[/componentheading]

In his store, such gemstone knowledge may not close a bridal sale. But when he hosted a local “Ask the Gemologist” call-in radio show, it did help drive young couples and other customers to his store.  

At 45, Bertman began ushering in the second generation of the family business by taking over some of the more involved store management tasks several years ago, including the store’s promotions. Local AM station WJDA had a call-in program format that was popular in the small town of Quincy, MA, whose 88,000 residents enjoyed the light news, commentary and call-ins to get their daily fix of local news.  

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Rogers Jewelry advertised on the low-watt AM station. But when confronted with an aggressive saleswoman five years ago who wanted more business from the jeweler, Bertman demanded something different from the ads his father ran on the station.  

After many exchanges, Bertman came up with the idea of a paid programming slot consistent with the station’s call-in format. He put together a presentation and pitched “Ask the Gemologist” to the radio station owner.

[componentheading]THE EXECUTION[/componentheading]

Best of the Best: Radio DaysWith zero broadcasting experience, a 30-second trade association commercial spot to his credit, and a teaching stint at a local community college, Bertman stepped up to the mike to a totally new audience.  

“Ask the Gemologist” was a program that had a late morning 11:00 AM to noon slot every Monday. Five years ago, his first show covered the topic, “What is a graduate gemologist?” and took off from there.  

“After that I began a more newsy approach when I wasn’t talking about products, like the birthstone of the month at the start of each month,” Bertman says. “In the show’s five years, I also talked about news items like the discovery of North Carolina emeralds and the [weakening] of De Beers’ monopoly.”  

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One news story Bertman remembers having some fun with was LifeGem’s introduction of diamonds created from the cremated remains of a person or animal.  

“I found out about the product early on, so the show became a product announcement platform as well,” Bertman says.

“The intent of informing the audience on this and other products was always to make listeners better gemstone and jewelry consumers by entertaining while educating.” 

Like most educators, Bertman would take summers off to recharge his broadcasting batteries and come up with new material. Preparations for the show could take as little as ten minutes or as much as a few hours, depending on the subject matter and his current workload. “I always over-prepared,” says Bertman. “There was always the fear of dead air.”  

Each year, he did an estimated 35 shows that cost the store $300 per program. The roughly $10,000 annual outlay was a modest portion of the store’s promotional budget.  

In negotiating the program, the radio station proved to be very flexible on scheduling, and sometimes let Bertman take time off from the scheduled Monday slot. But Bertman always made sure to hit every possible Monday morning show in the lead up to Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. “The station was very accommodating that way,” Bertman says. “They even let me do shows from the store, whether it was a call-in to the radio station or a remote broadcast done on location at the store.”  

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In looking back on his five-year tenure as the best-known gemologist in his market, Bertman considers the paid programming call-in radio show the store’s most successful promotional vehicle. Bertman never formally tracked sales linked to the program, but estimates that it helped ring in roughly 100 additional sales each year.  

One surprising sale linked directly to the program came from a man several towns away – supposedly outside the AM station’s 5,000 watt daytime range. But, nevertheless, he did hear Bertman’s show – at least on one occasion.

[componentheading]THE REWARDS[/componentheading]

“He’d never stepped foot in the store but said that he came to Rogers because he heard the program,” Bertman says. “We helped him replace his wife’s lost wedding ring for an upcoming anniversary occasion, which resulted in a $17,000 sale.”  

Another sale Bertman linked directly to the show was from a regular caller named Roy. In keeping with the station’s format, Bertman opened the phone lines to callers. On average, he’d receive four or so calls per show, of which one of them was invariably from Roy. “I assumed he watched a lot of the Discovery Channel as he always had good questions,” Bertman says. “He’d always call 30 minutes into the show and sometimes helped take the show in different directions.”  

They even let me do shows from the store, whether by call-in or a remote broadcast done on location at the store.

Eventually Roy came into the shop. A modest sort, Roy didn’t burst into the store announcing that the frequent caller had come for a face-to-face visit with the man behind the mike. Instead, he simply milled around the store and began talking with the staff.  

“I overheard him and immediately recognized the voice,” Bertman says. “So I walked over and introduced myself. It was fun to finally meet Roy.”  

Since he is very involved in local charities, Bertman is widely recognized as the voice of Rogers Jewelry. The notoriety gets him recognized in bank lines and grocery store aisles as well. But this past February, “Ask the Gemologist” went off the air. WJDA switched to religious programming and the call-in format of Bertman’s show no longer fit with the new content.  

“I gave a farewell show and now people who recognize me or my voice compliment me on the final program,” Bertman says. “In all, the program helped make Rogers a destination store.”  

Bertman taped most of the “Ask the Gemologist” shows. He’s considering making podcast versions of the show to be downloaded from his store’s website, but hasn’t really sized up that technically-intensive project yet.  

For now, he’s still educating people – but now he’s focusing on a younger audience. “I’m teaching mineralogy to young kids once a year to help them with their MCAT tests,” Bertman says.  

Beyond that, Bertman is still contemplating where he wants to take his successful radio show format. An afternoon lifestyles show on a local television station might be the next logical extension, but Bertman wants to keep those and other future “Ask the Gemologist” plans to himself — at least for now.

[span class=note]This story is from the April 2006 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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